Craig William Sowell
Craig Sowell never lost his “little kid” as he grew older. We all have them; that small “you” at 2 or 3 years old where everything is a wide-eyed wonder of saying, “Golly gee, I ain’t ever seen nothin’ like this before.”
The child usually disappears as one ages and learns more about life, but Craig’s “little kid” was always there in his eyes as he discovered something else that was wondrous and great and needed to be shared. It was one of his most charming traits, and it is the one I will miss the most. He had a childlike wonder about life that ALS killed long before his eyes dimmed forever.
Craig loved life. He loved the sunrises and the sunsets. He seemed to love every minute of every day. I often wondered how someone could stay so sweet and so simple, and who thought that the world and life was a constant source of pleasure and something to be marveled at and shared. He was always wanting to share with people whatever he was so happy about. There was the beautiful rose that he brought from the yard to my desk while I was working so I could enjoy it too. There was the joy of sailing as he patiently explained how the sail drove the boat through the water and why you couldn’t just point the boat in the direction you wanted to go. There was the running joke amongst friends that Craig would walk up to anybody anywhere and say, “Hi, my name is Craig, wanna play? Let’s go sailing.”
There was his love of country, the American flag, the 4th of July, and finally, the very shy, quiet pride in being a vet who had chosen to serve at 17 years old. I will never ever understand how this “little kid” decided at 17 he was old enough to die for his country and enlist in the US Navy, where he served during the Vietnam War.
Life to Craig seemed to be a constant show and tell at just how wonderful it could be. He was an incredibly hard worker who so loved driving his big rig. The day he was told he should no longer go to work and climb into the cab of his big rig was the day that I saw the beginning of his pain and confusion reflected in his eyes. It was the beginning of the slow death of his “little kid.”
His daughter and I looked through so many pictures he took over the years from the cab of his big rig; I wonder how he ever got his job done. Pictures of sunrises, sunsets, pictures of the train we rode to Seattle, Washington, pictures of friends and acquaintances, of airplanes flying overhead, flowers and so many other things. These pictures seemed to be his proof that life truly is great and the world is a wondrous place.
ALS is a disease that tells you the clock is winding down but it may take a while and along the way it will strip you of everything. So little is known and so little can be done about it to this day. Craig’s “little kid” could never understand, “why me, why this,” when there is no explanation for it at all. There is a cruelty and randomness to ALS that is unfathomable. I would watch Craig’s “little kid” disappear as his body deteriorated day-by-day. Things he had done so easily and enjoyed so much simply became impossible to do. In his eyes, Craig’s receded further and further into the recesses of his mind as he lost the ability to speak, to stand, to walk, to eat, to even hold my hand. Nothing I could ever say or do could convince him to keep trying, keep fighting or to keep living. Whatever life is left can still be good. I often wondered where the “little kid” had gone while Craig the man was still here trapped in a body that would not allow him to do anything until even breathing became too hard and his warm, generous, gentle soul simply could not go on. In his eyes there was no “golly gee wonder” left at all.
Craig was a man of amazing stubbornness and determination for living life his own way. It was often joked about amongst so many of Craig’s friends that he marched to a different drummer. ALS was a drummer he could not march to. ALS was a drum beat he could see no way to listen to or live with. It was a way of life that his “little kid” wanted no part of and there was no way I could ever explain. One can only admire a person with such a strong love for his life that he chose to go out to his own drummer, on his own terms and in his own way and not the terms of a hideously cruel disease that destroys life, neuron by neuron.
In memory of Craig Sowell, take a moment to pause, look around you and simply delight in the smallest moments of wonder and joy that do exist somehow, somewhere, and in some way in our lives every day.